Liberal MP Scott Brison tries to yank the mic out of the hands of Council of Canadians Atlantic Organizer Angela Giles during an anti-Colombia FTA rally in Brison’s riding (Source: The Dominion)
On June 30, the Harper government announced its free trade deal with Colombia had received Royal Assent — the final stage in any piece of legislation. Free trade 1, human rights 0, and Canada’s global reputation takes another plunge. Despite requests from the Council of Canadians and Canadian Council for International Cooperation that the Senate hear from witnesses crossed off the Commons trade committee hearing schedule, our senators declined the opportunity to do the right thing. They agreed to hear from Scott Brison, though he wasn’t scheduled to appear (a habit of his – see photo), and passed C-2 in under an hour during a senate foreign affairs committee meeting last month.
It’s not all bad news. Though Canada has leaped ahead of the U.S., Norway, Belgium, European Union and Korea by signing an FTA with Colombia, it was not without a fight. Near unanimous opposition to the deal from Canadian human rights, environmental, labour, faith-based, development and social justice groups, as well as thousands of letters from the public, helped stall C-2 for over a year. The NDP and Bloc stood in the House against the deal until the end. And as bad as the “Brison amendment” is — the human rights side agreement that will let the Colombian government assess its own record — there is some room now to hold the Canadian government accountable for mass economic displacement, and the murders of workers and rights activists in Colombia.
It will be up to all of us to make sure even this weak side-agreement is not ignored. In the meantime, there’s nothing like a good shaming to let the Liberals know that we know they blew it. With Brison in the lead, they helped Harper put minute economic interest ahead of human rights, and ideology above common sense. Click here for a list of MPs and their email addresses. For help writing your letters, see our Colombia section on the Council of Canadians website. You can use an old Action Alert as a template, too.